I’ve always had a thing for Chicago, I suppose. Years before I visited the city, years before a number of my friends moved there, I identified with it as a second love after Boston, sympathizing with their teams and digging their music (the blues scene, Wilco, Hum, Big Black, etc.).
In sports, they have some fantastic icons. The Bears had Gayle Sayers and Walter Payton, the Blackhawks had Stan Mikita and Tony Esposito, and the Cubs had Ernie Banks and, for our purposes today, Ron Santo.
Santo died late Thursday night at the age of 70. To say he was beloved by followers of the Cubbies is an understatement. One of the greatest third basemen in the history of the game, an announcer for the team for years, famous for being snubbed by the Hall of Fame, a champion for carrying on in the face of diabetes, Santo was as classy a former ballplayer as you’re likely to find.
I never saw him play (he retired after the 1974 season), and I don’t live in Chicago. But I’ve always admired him, and I was sad to hear he had passed.
Some folks who know better than me summed up his career and life pretty well, though, and I’d like to highlight them.
- Josh Wilker of Cardboard Gods has, in his typically understated way, captured Santo beautifuly in just a couple hundred words or so.
- Joe Posnanski talks about how Santo carried himself with a dignity and grace that’s rare for the overlooked.
- Bruce Levine looks back on his childhood hero, and how he grew to admire him even more as their paths crossed.
As they say, rest in peace, Ron. You were loved, and always will be.